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October 19, 2016—briefing: “Islamophobia as Ideology of Empire” with Arun Kundnani. Cosponsored with The Bridge Initiative and the Berkley Center. Is Islamophobia a form of racism? If so, how does it relate to the broader history of racisms? Drawing on the work of Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall, Islamophobia is here analyzed as a lay ideology that offers an everyday “common sense” explanatory framework for making sense of mediated crisis events (such as terrorist attacks) in ways that disavow those events’ political meanings (rooted in empire, racism, and resistance) and instead explain them as products of a reified “Muslimness.” Thus Islamophobia involves an ideological displacement of political antagonisms onto the plane of culture, where they can be explained in terms of the fixed nature of the “Other.” This maneuver is also an act of projection in the psychoanalytic sense: the violence upon which US-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in a nominally liberal society so it is transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from “outside” the social order.

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